Elderly vulnerable this time of year

Lawton_A 70 year old Lawton man was found dead inside his home Thursday morning.  Investigators say it appears he died days or even more than a week ago.  They say they do not suspect foul play and are still not sure whether cold temperatures played a role in his death.  This should be a reminder for all of us to check on our elderly family members and neighbors - especially when temperatures reach the freezing mark.

The freezing temperature is what brought a 92 year old woman to a Lawton hospital.  She was extremely cold; nurses tell police her core body temperature was 81 degrees and she was suffering from hypothermia.  Fortunately she survived and, now, DHS is investigating.

Police say the woman was staying in an RV behind her daughter's home and she says she takes care of her mom.  The daughter says the RV had electricity and heat, but it doesn't explain the bruises on the elderly woman - or the hypothermia she was suffering from when she arrived at the hospital.

"Any time the temperature gets very low and you're not prepared for it, obviously bad things can happen, fortunately she was taken to the hospital in enough time," says Captain Will Hines from the Lawton Police Department.  Police say Adult Protective Services is now looking into the woman's living conditions and its one case that ended with a positive outcome.  But, with temperatures at or below freezing - she's lucky.

Dick Huck with the Center for Creative Living says checking in on seniors - or anyone for that matter - could mean the difference between life and death.  "During inclement weather, it's really a serious problem, especially with senior citizens," he says.  "We think about those we're real close to, but sometimes, we don't even know our neighbors."

It could be as easy as making a few phone calls.  "This time of the year, checking on them once a week is really not satisfactory.  We need to check on them more often than that," Huck says.  And, that's what the PALs program does.  "Each person calls about five or six people it takes about an hour, once a week and sometimes I think the people making the calls get as much out of it as the people receiving the calls," says Huck.

Right now, the PALs program checks on about 35-40 people, but the director says they always have room for more names on the list - and, they could always use more volunteers to make phone calls.  The Center for Creative Living says it can also put seniors in touch with social service agencies that can help with utilities.

The bottom line is, if you need help, ask for it before it's too late.  And, if you haven't seen your neighbor in a while - knock on their door.